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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bicycling and the art of aging actively

Image of 93-year-old bicyclist Lucia McClain
From the Sacramento Bee, 11.18.08:

The art of aging actively
Lucia McLain and daughter Lydia Simonette are examples of how growing older has changed

Let's tell Lucia McLain that she should wear a helmet when she hops on her bike for a spin to Mercy San Juan Medical Center, where she volunteers twice each month.

"I have one," says McLain, who's 93. Of course! And here it is, unused, stored in the bottom of the china cabinet in the living room of her small apartment at the Atrium, a Carmichael assisted- living center. "I use a cap with a shield to keep the sun out," says McLain.

A visor, she means, but that's hardly the point.

"She has done this for 60 years," her daughter, 71-year-old Lydia Simonette, says a bit wearily. Clearly, she's been down this conversational path with her mother a time or two before.

Lucia McLain's old age has been more settled, if still abundantly active. Until July, she lived in her own home, and she mowed the lawn herself. "She had a cherry tree in the yard, and she always climbed a ladder and picked cherries," says her daughter.

"I don't miss the work," McLain says. Even so, she continues biking 10 miles round trip to her Mercy San Juan volunteer duties, sewing Snoopy dolls for ailing youngsters. And she always spends Saturday mornings at Simonette's house, cleaning.

"We've done that every Saturday for 50 years," McLain says.

"And then we'll run errands or go grocery shopping," says Simonette.

Like mother, like daughter: They're too busy to slow down long enough for their age to catch up with them. (Read more.)
I took a two-week break from blogging to travel to the East Coast--including my first visit to the absolutely incredible city of Savannah, Georgia--and to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday. But I didn't want to miss sharing this inspiring story, the most inspiring since the June article on nonagenarian bicyclist Fred Mathes. There are many physical and mental health benefits of bicycle commuting, including graceful aging. Staying socially engaged and physically active seems to be a winning formula for a long, healthy life. So keep bicycling.

Image: Sacramento Bee. Image of 93-year-old bicyclist Lucia McClain.
Visit: Bicycling is a Great Hobby for Senior Citizens, Today's Senior Hobbies
Visit: Bicycling To Better Health, Alive
Visit: Mental Health Alert: Biking Boosts Aging Brains, Cycling For Boomers...Plus
Visit: Nonagenarian rides 56-year-old bike, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fenders critical for happy bike commuting

Image of fenders on Rivendell bicycle
The crack staff at the Bike Commute Tips Blog Research Institute have tabulated the results of our second reader survey on accessories for wet weather bicycling. (The first survey was on motivations for bicycle commuting.) Fenders are the top accessory for happy bicycle commuting in wet weather, according to our very non-scientific poll of readers of this blog.

In response to the question "Most critical accessory for rainy weather commuting by bicycle", fenders drew the highest response, with 43 percent of the votes. I agree with this. Rain falling from the sky is not a big nuisance for bicycle commuters; it's just water. But the oily muck that splashes up from the road is very unpleasant. Bicycling in rainy conditions without fenders results in a dark greasy, muddy stripe up your backside. Fenders are very affordable, easy to install, and can add a classic look to your bicycle. I leave my fenders on all year long. For my hybrid and touring bikes, my favorites include the stylish SKS P35 chromoplastic silver fenders and the effective Planet Bike fenders with mudflaps.

Following fenders, 34 percent of blog readers felt that a waterproof rain jacket is critical. My favorite rain jacket is the Bellwether Aqua-No Jacket. But for much of my short-distance commuting, a rain cape from REI works fine.

The third most critical accessory for rainy weather bicycle commuting, with 15 percent of votes, is headlights. Visibility is diminished during rain, and motorists are more likely to see you if you're well lit. For most short commuting I manage with an efficient LED from Planet Bike; for darkest conditions I have a Light & Motion Solo Logic. I'm also fond of the Cateye HL-EL410 LED headlight, which attaches easily to any handlebar.

Other important, if not critical, accessories for rainy weather bicycle commuting include rain pants for additional body protection; a bucket of soapy water and a hose for frequent cleaning of the bicycle; and lubrication for moving parts and the chain.

Image: Web capture
Visit: Winter biking 101, Chicago Tribune
Visit: Health, fun top bike commuting poll, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More tips for rainy-day bike commuting

From the News-Tribune (Tacoma, WA), 11.06.08:

Experts offer tips to survive riding in the rain
As Tory Grant slid into some rain gear, the manager of Tacoma's Old Town Bicycle confessed a little secret: It's hard for him to get motivated to go for a bike ride when the weather gets nasty.

He’s not alone. “You know, you hem and you haw for a couple of hours, then you finally do it,” Grant said. “But once you do it, it’s not that bad.” Whether riding for fitness or commuting, the bike doesn’t have to stay in the garage during the cold and rainy seasons. But cyclists who hit the road need to prepare for the outdoor conditions during the fall and winter months.

Here are some tips for winterizing yourself and your ride from local cycling experts...

On gray winter days, lights aren’t so much for seeing as being seen. Lights ($10 and more) are needed on the handle bars and on the seat stem so you can be seen from ahead and behind, Grant said. And don’t forget to keep your lights charged so they don’t fail you...

Eye protection
(Eye) protection ($20 and more) is a must in the winter to keep rain and road debris out of your eyes. “Some riders even use yellow lenses because they’ll help you see a little clearer,” he said.

Grant said a good riding jacket ($40 and more) is the most important item for riding in the wet and cold. Unlike a typical jacket, cycling jackets are longer in the back to, as he said, “keep your butt dry.” Don’t be afraid to pick a jacket with bright colors. Like lights, a colorful jacket is a good way to assure you are spotted by motorists.

Waterproof pants or riding tights are important for staying warm...

Putting fenders ($20 and more) on your bike is a good way to keep you a little drier...

Toes go cold fast on a bike, so it seems every cyclist has a trick for keeping their feet warm. Grant wears neoprene booties ($30 and up) over his shoes...

Most gloves aren’t waterproof because of all the seams, Grant said, but keeping your hands warm is important.

Add time
(One Tacoma rider) allows extra time for his rides in winter and fall. “Whether it’s riding a heavier bike with fenders or riding in the rain, it adds minutes to my commute,” he said.

Be (extra) alert
Staying alert is always good advice, but it’s especially important in the winter when there are extra hazards. Leaves, road stripes, steel plates and grates are all slippery when wet.

Clean up
Riding in the rain is a good way to shorten the life of your bike chain if you don’t take care of it, Grant said. He suggested lightly rinsing your chain – never use high pressure – then apply a degreaser ($6-$60). (Read more.)
More sage seasonal advice from the savvy bicyclists of the Pacific Northwest.

Image: News Tribune (Tacoma).
Visit: Pedalling through the puddles, The Province (Vancouver BC)
Visit: Don't give your bike the cold shoulder this year, Baltimore Sun
Visit: Wet Weather Riding, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
Visit: Cold weather no barrier to bicycle commuting, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Brr: Tips for cold-weather cycling, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Stay flexible during winter cycling, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Winter cold no obstacle to bicycle commuting, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Pedaling through winter, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bicycling continues to gain in Portland

From The Oregonian, 11.12.08:

A banner year for bicycles in Portland
Portland's annual city bicyclist counts posted some impressive numbers for 2008, and fuel prices near $5 a gallon last summer were only part of the explanation.

A report just released by Portland's Office of Transportation shows that bicycle use in the city increased by double digits for the fourth straight year. On top of that, the city's 28 percent increase in overall bicycle use for 2008 was the biggest single-year increase since Portland began counting cyclists at various locations around the city in the early 1990s...

Transportation planners should also be pleased with the year's increase in female bicyclists, an important indicator of success for municipal bicycle programs. In 2008, Portland's proportion of women riders reached an all-time high of 32 percent, up from 26 percent in 1997 and 31 percent in 2007.

High gas prices alone don't account for Portland's accelerating growth in bicycle use. Roger Geller, the city's bicycle coordinator, also credits Portland's modest but steady investments in bicycle infrastructure and encouragement programs, as well as a growing public awareness of the health and environmental benefits of bicycling. (Read more.)
Encouraging editorial in The Oregonian, applauding Portland's continued progress for bicycling. Considered a model by many bicycle advocates, Portland earlier this year received the coveted Platinum level award from the League of American Bicyclists' Bicycle Friendly Community program. The only other Platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Community in the U.S. is Davis, California.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Is it Green? Portland, Inhabitat
Visit: League honors Portland as top bicycle-friendly community, Portland Business Journal
Visit: Portland: Democracy Now! celebrates bicycling culture, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Portland's bicycling economy, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Portland acts to protect cyclists, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: New York Times on Portland bicycling, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Portland: Leaving the car behind, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bike sharing sweeps Europe

Image of Bicing bike share from Barcelona
From the New York Times, 11.09.08:

European Support for Bicycles Promotes Sharing of the Wheels
BARCELONA, Spain — In increasingly green-conscious Europe, there are said to be only two kinds of mayors: those who have a bicycle-sharing program and those who want one.

Over the last several years, the programs have sprung up and taken off in dozens of cities, on a scale no one had thought possible and in places where bicycling had never been popular. The sharing plans include not just Paris’s Vélib’, with its 20,000 bicycles, but also wildly popular programs with thousands of bicycles in major cities like Barcelona and Lyon, France. There are also programs in Pamplona, Spain; Rennes, France; and Düsseldorf, Germany. Even Rome, whose narrow, cobbled streets and chaotic traffic would seem unsuited to pedaling, recently started a small trial program, Roma’n’Bike, which it plans to expand soon.

For mayors looking to ease congestion and prove their environmental bona fides, bike-sharing has provided a simple solution: for the price of a bus, they invest in a fleet of bicycles, avoiding years of construction and approvals required for a subway. For riders, joining means cut-rate transportation and a chance to contribute to the planet’s well-being. The new systems are successful in part because they blanket cities with huge numbers of available bikes, but the real linchpin is technology. Aided by electronic cards and computerized bike stands, riders can pick up and drop off bicycles in seconds at hundreds of locations, their payments deducted from bank accounts.

“As some cities have done it, others are realizing they can do it, too,” said Paul DeMaio, founder of MetroBike, a bicycle transportation consulting company based in Washington, D.C., that tracks programs worldwide. “There is an incredible trajectory.” (Read more.)
Interesting article in the New York Times, suggesting that bike sharing may have a harder time in North America, due to our pervasive car culture, longer commutes, liability concerns, and..."preference for wearing helmets." Programs have been launched in Montreal and Washington DC, with more on the horizon in the U.S. It seems Clear Channel Outdoor is making a significant push with its SmartBike brand.

Long time bicycle commuters may reap the benefits of these casual bikers, as the presence of riders on public shared bicycles helps swell our numbers, improve our safety, and increase motorist awareness. Gilles Vesco, who runs the Vélo'v bike sharing program in Lyon, told the New York Times: “The critical mass of bikes on the road has pacified traffic. Now, the street belongs to everybody and needs to be better shared. It has become a more convivial public space.”

Image: New York Times.
Visit: Bike Sharing Blog
Visit: Bicing: Barcelona's Communal Bicycle Program Has Transformed The City, Huffington Post
Visit: Bike Share Program For DC NPS Employees Launched, NPS Digest
Visit: Will We Be Able to Pedal Another World Series?, Jewish Exponent
Visit: Bike-Sharing Gets Smart, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: More love for Paris Vélib, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paris Velib is chic, trendy, hip, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Friday, November 07, 2008

Spreading the word on bicycling

Image of Andy Clarke of the League of American Bicyclists
From Lancaster New Era (PA), 11.07.08:

Pedal power: He talks benefits of bicycles
Andy Clarke made it sound easy. As easy as riding a bicycle.

Clarke, president (sic) of the national League of American Bicyclists, made his case this morning for encouraging bicycle riding in Lancaster County.

Speaking to about 45 county and municipal planners, local police officers and bicycle advocates...Clarke promoted bicycling as a means of improving the overall health of the population, air quality and economic vitality, as well as reducing traffic congestion....Clarke gave examples of what other communities have done to encourage bicycling and receive the League's "Bicycle Friendly" designation.

Workshop planners are hoping the meeting will begin a community dialogue about steps that can be taken here. With relatively minor adjustments, communities across the country have gotten more people riding bicycles. (Clarke) pointed to Corvalis, Ore., where some streets were repainted to add bike lanes. In San Francisco, icons were painted on the roads to indicate where bicyclists should ride. In Carmel, Ind., parallel bike paths were added along some streets.

Portland, Ore., he said, is the shinning example in the United States. City officials there have worked for more than 15 years to expand gradually a bicycling transportation network...Eight percent of Portland's population now uses bicycles as its primary means of transportation. Another 10 percent of residents use bicycles as their secondary means, he said. "They're actually changing behavior," Clarke said. (Read more.)
One of the important functions of advocacy is to proselytize. Spreading the word of the worthy cause. Fresh from the passage of the Bicycle Commuter Act, the League of American Bicyclists continues to press for bicycle-friendly reform. If you aren't a member already, join. We clearly have a favorable tailwind for bicycling. Let's capitalize on this with strong advocacy at the national level.

Image: Web capture. Andy Clarke, League of American Bicyclists.
Visit: Bike Commuter Act part of Fed bailout bill, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Interview with L.A.B. President Amanda Eichstaedt, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Advocacy works for bicyclists, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Bike shops roll with fuel prices

Image of bicycle shop
From the Providence Journal, 11.05.08:

Bike shops roll with fuel prices
When the price of gasoline spiked to $4 per gallon last summer, commuters didn’t rush to bike shops in search of more economical transportation, says Reed Caster, owner of Caster’s Bicycle Center in Warwick.

But many commuters did rush to their garages and basements to spruce up bikes that have been collecting dust for the last five years, says P.J. Ramstack, sales and customer service manager at Civia Cycles, a Minnesota manufacturer of bikes designed for commuting and shopping, as well as for fun. He says independent bike shops saw their service departments prosper when gasoline prices were high.

When they did dust off the bikes, the would-be commuters accessorized them with bags, lights and other gadgets at such a frantic pace, suppliers had difficulty keeping up, according to Eric Lightbody of Todson, Inc...

Caster, Ramstack and Lightbody all attended Interbike Outdoor Demo Days East, a cycling trade show that had its debut in Roger Williams Park last month. Organizers of the event expected more than 1,000 retailers, wholesale distributors and other members of the industry from the East Coast to visit 60 manufacturers of bikes and accessories. Interbike, held annually in Las Vegas, is cycling’s largest trade show in the United States. Outdoor Demo Days gives dealers opportunities to actually try the new products. (Read more.)
Interesting article on the activity at bicycle retailers this year, suggesting repair business accounted for much of the traffic heading into the shops. Whether it's sales or service activity, thriving bike shops reveal a healthy trend. A great bike shop is an indispensable partner for successful bicycle commuting.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Bike retailers warm to commuting market, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bike shop sales strong across the U.S., Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Buying the right commuting bike, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Bikes made for commuting are hot, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Massachusetts: Bicycle shops on a roll, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Cold weather no barrier to bicycle commuting

From the Salt Lake Tribune, 10.31.08:

Winter biking is no breeze--but it can be done
We gathered in the back room to confront our deepest fears: Cold. Darkness. Ice. Other people. We couldn't quite wrap our heads around the idea of riding a bicycle to work in the dead of winter. Bike vs. snowplow? The physics of that seemed all wrong. And that kind of thinking is our biggest hurdle, said John Higgins, a year-round bike commuter who...recently gave a seminar on cold-winter commuting..."Think of commuting on your bike as a fun winter sport."

One by one, Higgins struck down potential issues for people who want to extend the bike season, whether because they like the exercise, want to pollute less by leaving the car at home, or need to save on gas money. Here's his advice on every objection we raised.

Fear of commitment: Simply making the decision to ride in the colder months is Job One. "Until you've got that 'Yes, I'm going to' mind-set, the rest is irrelevant," Higgins said. Once you commit, the other problems can be solved. And don't think you have to go all hardcore. Higgins still uses a car in nasty weather, or gets a ride, or uses the busor TRAX. Maybe initially, you'll decide to ride when streets are dry and the temperature is above freezing. A small step is still a step.

Cold: Layering is the key to temperature regulation and wind protection. Many people will already own much of the gear they need - a base layer of wool or synthetic; an insulating layer of fleece; and a lightweight top layer that blocks wind and moisture while allowing heat to escape. Higgins likes zippers on all of the above to allow quicker heat release. You'll have to experiment with different weights to discover what works best for you. Wear a wicking skull cap under your helmet, sunglasses with clear lenses or ski goggles, and five- or split-fingered gloves that allow you to work gears and brakes. Toe covers and shoe covers are helpful if you wear biking shoes; if you don't, any footwear that keeps you warm and dry will do.

Winterizing the bike: If you plan to ride when it's sloppy, fenders are a good idea. Higgins showed clip-on fenders that work on any mountain bike. A more beefy tire might help, too. And you should wipe down the bike every time you ride in the wet, doing a more thorough cleaning every month. Lights are critical - anything you can do to help other people see you is good. I just added a second light on my handlebar, a headlamp on my helmet, and blinking lights on my saddlebags to complement the blinkie on the back. "The more lights the better," Higgins advised.

Choosing a route: In the winter, snow and snowplowing can make some roads impassable. Ice is another issue on spots that don't get sun. So, you'll have to experiment and pay attention to which streets are cleared first. Unfortunately, that's usually the busier ones. Safety is paramount, so there's no shame in ditching the bike when it gets too hairy.

Riding skills: First, slow down. If streets are slippery, brake sooner and more gently. Go easy on the front brake while riding downhill. Snow is similar to sand, which means keeping weight off the front of the bike. (Read more.)
Northern California's first significant rain storm came this weekend, soaking Halloween festivities and causing bike commuters to dig out their rain wear and fenders. It's also the end of Daylight Savings Time, meaning more riding in the dark. This welcome article provides a great overview of how to prepare for bicycle commuting in the cold weather months. Many bicycle commuters in colder climates--from Minneapolis to Madison to Montreal to Copenhagen--happily commute year round. With enough preparation, you can too.

Clothing is really the key. Many bicycle commuting veterans suggest: There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. As I write on my commuting tips site, the clothing you'll need depends on your climate and traveling distance. For shorter commutes in light precipitation, I manage with a waterproof poncho/cape purchased from REI. For longer rides in rainy conditions, I have a Bellwether Aqua-No jacket and pants, which are waterproof and breathable (allowing perspiration to evaporate.) I also have waterproof gloves and booties. Fenders and rain covers for your panniers (if you don't already have waterproof panniers) are also absolutely essential.

Once your body is protected from the elements, the other major factor for a happy cold weather bike commute is your riding skills. Stopping and turning are more hazardous during wet conditions; be attentive to your speed. As mentioned, prepare for darkness with good lights. For most short commuting I manage with an efficient LED from Planet Bike; for darkest conditions I have a Light & Motion Solo Logic.

What suggestions would you offer a new bicycle commuter for happy cycling in cold weather?

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Cold Riders: Winter doesn't mean an end to bike commutes, Boise Weekly
Visit: Think before biking this winter, South Bend Tribune
Visit: Winter biking? Go for it, Chicago Sun-Times
Visit: Taking that bike out in winter requires planning, Grand Junction Sentinel (CO)
Visit: Wet Weather Riding, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
Visit: Brr: Tips for cold-weather cycling, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Stay flexible during winter cycling, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Winter cold no obstacle to bicycle commuting, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Pedaling through winter, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Cycling up 35% in NYC

Bicycle commuter in New York City
From the New York City Department of Transportation:

DOT announces 35% increase in commuter cycling from 2007 to 2008
The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) (on October 30) announced findings showing that commuter bicycling in New York City has increased an unprecedented 35% between 2007-2008. Cycling levels in the City have doubled during the last six years. With increasing numbers of cyclists on the streets and Daylight Saving Time ending this weekend, DOT will also distribute over 1,500 bicycle lights over the next few days, to help keep New York's ever-growing legion of cyclists more visible. Drivers are reminded to be aware of cyclists and share the road safely with them.

"This unprecedented increase shows we are well on the way toward our goal of doubling the number of bike commuters," said Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "As these numbers rise, cyclists should take all safety precautions, while drivers must be vigilant when sharing our streets with this growing population."

This growth in cycling follows two years of DOT efforts to rapidly expand and improve New York's bicycle network. DOT added 140 miles of new bicycle routes to the on-street bicycle network in 2007 and 2008. (Read more.)
It's hard not to be impressed by New York City's great strides to transform and humanize its streetscape, pushed by the effective advocacy of Transportation Alternatives, StreetsBlog, TimesUp!, and many others. In recent years this advocacy has happily met visionary leadership in city government, including from a DOT agency chief hailed as a "cycling radical". Watch the inspiring recent interview with NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan at StreetFilms and just imagine if your local transportation agency leadership had such vision. Or imagine such leadership in Washington DC.

There are certainly diverse factors contributing to the surge in bicycle commuting in NYC, including fuel prices and economic distress. But clearly infrastructure has made a difference. New York City is reaping significant dividends from its investment in bicycle-friendly infrastructure--bike lanes, bike parking, bicycle access on transit. NYC offers a model to other cities seeking to provide transportation choice, reduce environmental impacts, improve community life, and enhance public health.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: NYC Becomes More Bike-Friendly, The Epoch Times
Visit: NYC Bike Counts Jump 35 Percent, StreetsBlog
Visit: Commuter Cycling Is Soaring, City Says, New York Times
Visit: Commuter cycling soars in NYC,
Visit: Streetfilms: A Conversation With Janette Sadik-Khan, StreetsBlog
Visit: Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrión promoting bicycle use, New York Daily News
Visit: Washington Post on NYC cycling, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: More bicyclists in NYC, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Brooklyn: Bike lanes save lives, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site